In the short story, “The Story of an Hour,” written by Kate Chopin, she presents the character of Mrs. Louise Mallard. Louise Mallard also has a serious heart condition. But she is a melancholic woman stuck in her resentful marriage. While unable to stand up for herself or remove herself from the relationship, she sustains it. The meaning of life and death take on opposite meaning for Mrs. Mallard in her marriage because she lacked the courage to stand up for herself.
In the story, Mrs. Mallard is given the news by her sister Josephine of the supposed death of her husband. Josephine has to gently break the news to Mrs. Mallard that her husband has been killed in a violent accident on the railroads. This oddly comes as a great relief to her, and for a short moment, she experiences sensation happiness of a freed life from the introverted relationship with her husband. However, the sense of relief Louise Mallard feels is very short-lived.
She is astonished to see him alive. When Mrs. Mallard sees that her husband is actually alive, she is even more shocked than before. Because there was not a “gentle” way to tell her that Mr. Mallard is actually alive- the shock was too much for her heart to handle.
After first hearing the news about the death of her husband, Mrs. Mallard’s reaction took the form of words: “free, free, free!” (Chopin 555). This vividly shows that she was already starting to experience what kind of life she wanted after she heard the news of her husband’s death.
Her love for life and the desire to live long, take an ironic twist when she sees that her husband is actually alive. As Louise Mallard stands watching her husband, he is alive in front of her. This is the most real shock of Mrs. Mallard’s life. When Josephine told Mrs. Mallard about the death of her husband, she had to process and think a lot about how she broke the news because she knew that her heart was too weak to handle the cold truth. So, Mrs. Mallard had the first shocking news given to her gradually. But seeing her husband alive shocked everyone greatly. It strikes with such a force that it takes Louise Mallard’s life. It is very likely that her weak heart simply could not bear, what certainly was for her, the most tragic news. Seeing and knowing that her husband was still living. Her husband’s death meant life to Mrs. Mallard. In which she hoped would be long enough for her to live. “She says a prayer that her life might belong to enjoy all the seasons in her life”. (Chopin 556). Even the doctor asserts that she died because she was overjoyed to see him alive. Others knew it was the opposite that happened. After Mrs. Mallard experienced a brief moment of what it was like to be free from a burdened life she just could not bring herself to the thought of living another moment of the life she thought she had escaped.
Although there is a hint of tragedy to her death, it could also translate her death—as an end to her repressed life. All of the things she never got to achieve in her life, she did so in her death. Louise Mallard is now free and no longer exposed to the repressive life with her husband. But could this be taken as an act of nerve on her part? When the doctors examine her, they all agree that her death was a result of the “joy that kills”. (Chopin 556). It was not normal for a newly widowed woman to delight over her husband’s death. It was expected that his reappearance being alive would make her happy; happy to the point of possibly having a heart attack. Mrs. Mallard is used to bringing to light to the position of a widow in a time that it was expected to grieve after the death of her husband.
The entire story is based upon how Mrs. Mallard agonized. She suffered because of a problematic marriage which gave her no joy. She suffered due to the disease that she had. The kind of suffering that she undergoes is shown by the author to illustrate what the women of that society had to go through in marriages. When Mrs. Mallard realizes that she is nothing but happy outside of the marriage. Mrs. Mallard’s character is used to show that men can trouble women in marriage. The unexpected reaction shown by Louise Mallard represents the various feelings that some married women conceal in their hearts. It is obvious that any wife that loves her husband is expected to lament the death of their spouse, but some others would impulsively see death as an opportunity to express their true colors and characters as women.
Throughout this short story, the author Kate Chopin focuses on envisioning the feelings and the role that the married women of the 19th century had. Kate Chopin explains the responsibilities of women and all that is expected of them by telling this story. The emotional change that Mrs. Mallard goes through is helpful when trying to understand that even though her marriage was not necessarily bad, she felt very limited. The short story touched on a global issue of women’s independence that was probably the reasoning behind the overjoyed nature of Mrs. Mallard after hearing the misfortunate news.
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